The rains that have innundated the East Coast this week may have finally stopped, but they left parting gifts that are invading lawns everywhere: mushrooms. If your yard is anything like mine, an alarming and entirely new (to me, anyway) assortment of fungi have sprung up in the past week: mushrooms red, green and orange in the shape of frowny faces and smiley faces, some lumpen masses, some perfect half moons, some warty, some smooth. What's more, these are magic mushrooms. The following photos are almost all of the same species: Fly Amanita, (Amanita muscaria). Explore the portraits I took of these exotic looking, but quite common, mushrooms. And learn a little about some of the largest organisms on Earth. Did I mention they're magic?WATCH VIDEO: How Do Psychedelic Mushrooms Work Their Magic
This fly amanita mushroom (Amanita muscaria) is poisonous
hallucinogenic. It's thought that the mushroom is one of the oldest hallucinogens known to humans. During the Middle Ages, the ancient Norse warriors called Berserkers ate foods that contained the mushroom, which made them fearless and brutal fighters, even if they were completely high. Several tribes in Siberia were found in the early 1700s using the mushroom as an intoxicant. In order to stretch the euphoric effects of the mushroom, and possibly bypass the less savory effects of the mushroom (i.e. vomiting), tribesmen would often drink the urine of men who had taken the drug, since the drug passes through the body unchanged. The mushroom can also be consumed dried, or combined with other liquids.NEWS: Deadliest Mushroom Is Spreading Worldwide
According to "Golden Guide: Hallucinogenic plants," the history of fly amanita could go even further back, thousands of years, to ancient India, where it was used to induce a religious fervor. In fact, fly amanita mushrooms may have been the main ingredient in soma, a ritual drink frequently mentioned in the Hindu religious text, the Rigveda. Soma, whose use has since died out, was made with the juice from the stalks of certain plants. Hindu tradition says the drink and the plant, which is also considered a god, all carry the same name. But fly amanita has long been a strong contender for the real identity of that plant, mainly because of the effects of soma mentioned in Hindu religious texts, and of ceremonial urine drinking.
If I were to sample some fly amanita, either dried, or maybe in a steeped tea, or perhaps in the urine of a helpful assistant, I might experience twitching, trembling or numbness in my arms and legs. I might feel happy, leading to singing and dancing. I might hallucinate colored visions, or see things much larger than they are, according to the "Golden Guide." I might grow violent, then fall into a deep sleep. I might develop strange convictions -- that I'm a newborn, or can fly. I might believe I'm in the presence of God. I might believe I am God.NEWS: Magic Mushrooms Could Treat Depression
Beyond the effects of
, fungi are magical all by themselves. Fungi are not plants; they live in their own kingdom, which includes mushrooms. What sets them apart from plants, and makes them like animals, is a material they have in their cell walls called chitin. Chitin makes up the hard outer shells of insects and other creatures with external skeletons.NEWS: Tasty Mushrooms From Dirty Diapers
The fly amanita is common in the Northern Hemisphere, especially around pine and birch trees. But why do mushrooms and other fungi carpet the ground after it rains? Fungi live in a hidden world, often below the ground, connected by a web of very small filaments called hyphae. Hyphae are so thin that they dry out easily. Since it takes many, many hyphae to come together to create a mushroom, that's easiest when the threads can stay wet for a while.
We only see fungi when hyphae come together and shoot fruits into the light of day as caps, puffballs, mushrooms, ears and other forms. The fungal organisms we can't see can be as small as a square foot, or as large as 30 acres. New research has emerged that suggests hyphae play a role in supporting forests through so-called mycorrhizal links. The fungal filaments act as highways between trees, delivering nutrients from older, stronger trees to saplings, forming a critical web of carbon, nitrogen and water delivery -- a kind of tree communications system. Now that's magic.Find out more about amazing mushrooms!
Disposable diapers are made of some of the most indestructible materials on Earth, but a group of researchers has found a way to degrade the soiled garments: by growing mushrooms on them.
The scientists grew the oyster mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus on a substance made from used diapers, and were able to reduce the diaper's weight and volume by up to 80 percent, according to a news statement.
Disposable diapers last for hundreds of years in landfills, and the average baby goes through 8,000 diapers during its infancy, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. [6 (Or So) Ways Fungi Can Help Humanity]
Diapers contain the plant-based material cellulose, which mushrooms consume, but they also contain nonbiodegradable materials such as polyethylene, polypropylene and a superabsorbent gel known as sodium polyacrylate.
To grow the fungus, the researchers only used diapers that contained liquid waste. They sterilized the garments in an autoclave, a device that subjects them to high-pressure steam. The scientists then ground up the diaper remains and mixed them with lignin from the remains of pressed grapes, coffee or pineapple tops. (Lignin is a woody substance the mushrooms need in order to grow.)
The researchers also used commercially available fungus spores grown on wheat or sorghum, which they spread on the diaper mixture. The icky substance was kept in a plastic bag for three weeks in the dark, under controlled temperature and humidity, and was then exposed to light.
After 10 to 12 weeks, the diaper mixture degraded enough to reduce its volume and weight by up to 80 percent, the researchers said. For example, about 2.2 lbs. (1 kilogram) of diapers would end up as 7 to 10 ounces (200 to 300 grams) of mushrooms.
Although the main purpose of growing the mushrooms was to degrade the diapers, the researchers decided to taste their crop.
They knew the diapers did not contain any contaminants or parasites, since the diapers were sterilized. They also determined that these mushrooms had similar amounts of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals as commercial yeast.
However, the mushrooms were grown on a small scale, and were not intended to be sold for human consumption, the researchers said. Nevertheless, they could be used as a supplement for cattle feed.
The synthetic materials in the diapers could aid the mushrooms' growth, possibly by providing air pockets and giving the fungi room to develop, the researchers said. The plastic materials could later be recycled, and the remnants of the superabsorbent gel from the diapers could be added to soils that don't retain moisture well, to reduce the amount of irrigation needed, the researchers added.
Original article on Live Science.
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